Covid-19: What you need to know today

On Wednesday, December 16, the world saw 715,068 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), according to The seven-day average of daily cases on the day was 637,090, the highest to date. The world saw 13,450 deaths from Covid-19 on December 16; and the seven-day average of deaths was 11,285, again, the highest to date. The discovery of vaccines that can prevent the disease, their approval in some countries, and imminent approval in some others, and frenetic preparations by governments everywhere to source vaccines, set up infrastructure to store and transport them, identify who will be the first to receive doses, and train those who will be administering the shots, has pushed news of the pandemic itself to the background; but the bad news is that, almost out of sight, it is raging.

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In India, especially, it’s easy to overlook this because our own numbers are so much better. India saw 28,415 new cases of Covid-19 on December 16. The seven-day average of cases was 27,672. India also saw 356 deaths on December 16; the seven-day average of deaths was 382. The case numbers are almost 70% lower than peaks seen in September; the death numbers, 67% lower than peaks seen in September. All India numbers are from the HT dashboard. Sure, India remains among the 10 most affected countries currently, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (the US, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Ukraine are the other nine). And it is among the six countries in this list where the average of daily cases is trending down (it is trending up only in Turkey, Russia, the UK, and Germany). The only reason the US isn’t in that list of countries where cases are trending up is because of a statistical anomaly, a blip that will likely correct itself as the week goes by.

On Wednesday, according to the New York Times, the US saw 244,365 new cases, the highest in a day in any country in the world (in fact, no other country has even crossed the 100,000 cases-a-day mark). The country also saw the most daily deaths on Wednesday with 3,607. That’s roughly 40% of the daily cases around the world, and a little over a fourth of all deaths, so it is clear which country is driving the global numbers. The only good news for the US in the dark days ahead will be that it can soon be among the few countries in the world to start keeping another count – the number of those vaccinated. The third wave of the pandemic has ravaged the country, though, and will likely continue doing so till the end of the month – hospitalisations are at an all-time high (a little over 100,000), and critical care units are filling up fast.

It isn’t just the US that is pushing up case numbers though. With a seven-day average of around 42,000 daily new cases, Brazil is seeing a strong second wave of infections; with a seven-day average of around 22,000 daily new cases, Germany’s second wave, which seemed to be coming under control in the second half of November, has only strengthened in intensity, forcing the country to declare a lockdown between December 16 and January 10; and the UK, which seemed to have seen off the second wave in early December, is seeing a spike in daily new cases (up to a seven-day average of around 20,000). Mexico, too, is seeing a strong second wave, with the seven-day average of daily new cases rising to over 10,000. And while Italy, France, and Spain would appear to be past the second wave, they are still seeing a substantial number of daily cases (a seven-day average of close to 10,000 in France, 8,000 in Spain, and over 15,000 in Italy).

As India exhales during its current welcome respite, it would do well to keep an eye on these numbers – if only to remember how quickly things can turn.

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